The Garden Guide

Hantam National Botanic Garden

The Hantam National Botanical Garden is on the Bokkeveld Plateau and was established in 2007.
Photograph © SANBI


The farm Glenlyon forms the core of the new Hantam National Botanical Garden. The previous owner of the farm, Mr Neil MacGregor, has recorded this history of the farm.

In 1883 the Farm Katlaagte (later Glenlyon) was purchased by James MacGregor, who came out from Scotland with his family in 1840. He eventually established himself at Citrusdal and married Lenie van Wyk. One of his sons, Joseph MacGregor moved to Nieuwoudtville and started to farm on Groenrivier. He married Elizabeth Moyle, eventually known to everybody in the district as “Mumsie”. Joseph became very ill and with his wife was compelled to move to Cape Town. Managers were appointed to look after the farm. After his death in 1922 his wife sadly realized that the farm was on the road to bankruptcy.

Gordon, the eldest child, was compelled to terminate his studies at Oxford University to save the sinking ship in 1925. In 1928 Gordon married Helen Lyon and they moved to Nieuwoudtville. In 1929 the Glenlyon homestead was built, having been designed by John Lyon, Helen's father, who had qualified as an architect in Scotland. Incidentally, John Lyon also designed the beautiful school building in Nieuwoudtville. Glenlyon was named by Gordon to honour his wife, Helen Lyon, and his own Scottish origins.

In the 1930s Gordon decided to run pure Merino sheep on the farm, and later Blackheaded Persians which were ultimately crossed with Dorset Horn sires from England to breed the Dorper. After 1948 about 1,000 hectares was used for wheat production. In 1961 it was decided by Neil, son of Gordon and Helen, to cease wheat cropping on Glenlyon. The challenge was to rehabilitate the 1,000 hectares of wheat paddocks and therefore legume pastures, utilizing medicagos and trifoliums, were established using their ability to affix atmospheric nitrogen.

In 1968, Neil married Neva Jankowitz from Germiston. The door at Glenlyon was eventually opened to ecotourism which brought many ecologically-minded people from all over the world to the farm. Botanists and scientists got involved in exciting projects on the farm culminating in the three-year Conservation Farming Project managed from Kirstenbosch by Dr John Donaldson.

Visitors over the years
In 1960 Glenlyon started flower tours on the farm hiring the only bus in Nieuwoudtville, and in 1991, an old Bedford bus, seating 25 people, was purchased, and it has become legendary in the ecological world. The tours rapidly became very popular and ultimately a 45-seater bus, pulled by one of the farm tractors, was purchased.

In 1991, the BBC Natural History Unit approached Neva and Neil in connection with the filming of “The Private Life of Plants”. Excellent rains fell in 1993 and the team stayed on the farm for three and a half weeks.

In January 1994 Sir David Attenborough returned with the team again to photograph the area during the dry season. The Director of Kew Gardens, Sir Ghillean and Lady Anne Prance visited the farm on two occasions. Sir Ghillean's comment: “This farm is a botanical treasure of international importance.”

Many school and university groups from near and far visited the farm for various projects.

Glenlyon becomes a National Botanical Garden
As none of Neva and Neil's four children wanted to farm, Glenlyon was sold to SANBI in 2007 and has now become the ninth National Botanical Garden managed by SANBI.

The purchase of the farm Glenlyon was made possible through generous funding provided by the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), Conservation International (CI) through the Global Conservation Fund (GCF), and the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust through the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF, South Africa ).

Plants of note

The Garden comprises over 6,200 ha of land on the Bokkeveld Plateau, and is world renowned for its incredible diversity of bulbous plants. Some 40% of the flora comprises bulbs that create spectacular displays in autumn and spring each year. The Garden also comprises large natural patches of renosterveld fynbos and succulent karoo vegetation.

Some 1,350 plant species have so far been recorded on the Bokkeveld Plateau, including 80 range-restricted or endemic species (6% of the flora). Almost a third of the species endemic to the Bokkeveld Plateau are threatened with extinction. Due to the incredible diversity and density of bulbs, Nieuwoudtville's biodiversity is of international significance and it is often referred to as ‘the Bulb Capital of the World'.

Nieuwoudtville, Northern Cape, South Africa, 8180

Monday to Friday. Open 7:30am to 4:30pm. Also open weekends during flowering season.

Free except during flowering season (August to October)

Visit the Hantam National Botanic Garden website

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